Wife can’t get along with my parents

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I just got married in June. Before we got married my wife had troubles at home, she’d get into arguments and fits/fights with her parents sometimes. We all thought, including her parents that it was an issue that may be caused by her family. After marriage she moved in with my parents and I and now she’s been having terrible anxiety issues and troubles adapting to my parents. This is their house; we are going to live here for a year or two until we can afford our own home. She has bouts and fits about how she rarely gets alone time; she doesn’t get little things like a toaster (which we recently talked to my dad about, and he begrudgingly agreed to us getting one). She doesn’t talk to them about her troubles, just me. Also she’s recently gotten terribly upset about something my father said.

We were discussing a couple of days off that I was going to take off from work, one day to go to an amusement park with my wife, cousin, nephew, and the second day my wife said she might not be able to take it off, my father said something like oh good if you’re at work he can help me do stuff around the house. She got very upset about it.

Today she’s on the phone with me while I’m at work, complaining and angry and crying about how my father said oh you could just learn to use the toaster oven the way he (me) does. She’s crying and screaming about it. Also she was crying and yelling about not being able to come home from work and just turn on the TV and watch for a few minutes without someone coming over and talking to her, (nagging as she puts it).

I’ve told he that this is only temporary and we’ll be moving out once we have the money and the income. She doesn’t seem to care. She even goes as far as to say she doesn’t want to be married anymore and / or she wants to move back in with her parents. These are just some of the problems / issues she feels living with my parents. I’m afraid that even when we move out and get our own home, she may still feel/act this way. How can I help her, what can I do to keep her from this combustible anxiety/anger/unhappiness?

- Desperate for a fix

A: Thank you for asking about this and giving us an opportunity to respond. My advice is simple:

Move out.

A year or two of this will create more tension than a home of your own is worth. See this as an experiment that didn’t work out. Get your own place now and stop trying to make something work — and to be blunt, I don’t think this is an opportunity for an extended family therapy intervention. I could certainly be wrong about this, but my sense from what you’ve said is that your parents and your wife need to be separated. The better investment would be for couples therapy.

One of the presentations by Dr. Dan Gilbert at the APA convention this month in San Diego included a piece of research that parents are most unhappy when their children move back into the home. Chances are your parents are not happy about the arrangement, and I would strongly suggest you bite the bullet and get out while the relationships are still repairable.

On the other hand there may be more government help for you to purchase a home than you realize. Here is a link to the government site for housing and urban development with some information that might make your dream a reality sooner rather than later. If it can’t happen now, renting is the best choice for your mental health.

You may also want to have a session or two with a couples counselor as you go through the transition. You’ll want this experience to add to your relationship, not deteriorate it. You may find a referral in your area by clicking on the find help tab above.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Wife can’t get along with my parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/26/wife-cant-get-along-with-my-parents/